Extensive research has examined how family status, composition and dynamics affect volunteering, but not how family members volunteer as a group. This research note explores family volunteering – two or more members of a family volunteering together. Using diary data from the United Kingdom Time Use Survey, it examines some essential facts about family volunteering – the extent and patterns of family volunteering, and how family volunteers differ from individuals who volunteer but not together with members of their family and from non-volunteers. The results suggest that family volunteering constitutes a substantive proportion of formal volunteering and nearly half of family volunteers are two adult partners. The findings also indicate that while family volunteering shares some predictors of volunteering with formal volunteering without one’s family members, it is also a sufficiently different volunteering phenomenon that warrants further theoretical explanation and empirical investigation.
In this article, we argue that if the principal aim of a volunteering programme is to provide a route into employment, its effectiveness can be improved if the participants acquire the specific skills, knowledge and attitudes that employers need. Volunteering programmes where enhancing employability is only one of several desired outcomes should focus primarily on other benefits of volunteering, with a realistic expectation of how much (or little) volunteering can contribute as a direct pathway into employment.